The Mental Health Association in Michigan

is the only statewide, non-governmental agency concerned with the broad spectrum of mental illness across all age groups.

April 2, 2021

Letter from Lansing – March 2021

The Critical Importance of Increasing Access to Inpatient Psychiatric Treatment in Michigan

In late February, Jay Gross posted a YouTube video that went viral as he pleaded for help on behalf of his adopted 15-year-old son who had been languishing in a mid-Michigan emergency room for two weeks due to a mental health crisis. According to an article that appeared in MIRS (Michigan’s Independent Source of News and Information) on March 3, 2021, Jay Gross made this statement in the video, “The system of mental health is so broken. I’m learning to realize that it is OK to not be OK, and we are experiencing this with our son. But to get help when you are not OK, we are told some of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard in my lifetime,” Jay Gross said in the video posted on Friday (February 26).”

The article continues to say that, “One of the ridiculous things he heard: His insurance was “too good.” The video went viral on Sunday and on the Monday, they had multiple offers for help, including offers for placement in some facilities that had turned them down before. Jay Gross and his wife, Jo Ann Gross, testified today before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services about the difficulties they had finding placement for their son.”

MHAM is deeply concerned about the lack of inpatient treatment and overall crisis services for individuals of all ages in Michigan. From MHAM’s perspective, the lack of inpatient psychiatric treatment has been a crisis for many years and became more critical when state general fund dollars to the community mental health system were significantly reduced in 2014. We are hopeful the lack of overall outpatient and inpatient mental health care will be addressed by the legislature.

In July of 2017, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) created MIPAD, a work group whose purpose was to study the lack of inpatient psychiatric beds. According to the Michigan Inpatient Psychiatric Discussions Report (MIPAD) dated February 13, 2018 (page 4):

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) currently operates four state psychiatric hospitals and one forensic center that have a grand total of 772 beds. The number of psychiatric beds in community hospitals have also fallen precipitously over the years: community hospitals in Michigan had a collective capacity of 3,041 adult beds and 729 child/adolescent beds in 1993, and this capacity has dwindled in 2017 to 2,197 adult beds and 276 child/adolescent beds.”

Unfortunately, despite the 43 recommendations that were contained in the report, there remain individuals and their families/supporters who experience challenges in being able to find appropriate mental health services when there is a crisis. It is not an uncommon occurrence for MHAM to be contacted by families who have a loved one or a child that has been languishing in a hospital emergency room for days, waiting for a psychiatric hospital or unit to have an available bed. This is a situation that cannot continue. We would not require an individual in the throes of a heart attack or a stroke to “wait” for emergency treatment. We should be treating psychiatric emergencies in the same way that we treat medical emergencies: with appropriate and immediate health care.

MHAM recognizes recent legislation, such as the passage of House Bill 5832 establishing crisis stabilization units and the establishment of the MiCAL hotline, will provide additional resources for families and individuals who are experiencing a psychiatric emergency. At the same time, there is a need for additional beds in state psychiatric hospitals, particularly for individuals who have more significant psychiatric symptoms that cannot be addressed through a community inpatient psychiatric stay. There is a need for a broad continuum of care that is accessible to the community that includes inpatient hospitalization, crisis stabilization and transition to crisis residential programming if warranted.

For children and adolescents, the need for additional psychiatric beds is more critical along with a continuum that offers services that can meet the needs of those who have more significant behavioral health conditions. MHAM will continue to advocate for access to appropriate inpatient mental health services for children, youth, and adults in Michigan.

To read the full March 2021 newsletter, please CLICK HERE.